I received a great request from one of our readers to post about things to do the week leading up to a race. Since my half marathon is next Saturday, it was perfect timing!
Race pic from my half marathon last September
Race week workouts:
You have completed all of your long runs and moved onto taper runs, so now what? The week leading up to a race is an important time to find that balance between keeping your endurance up and letting your body rest. This is not the time to start a new exercise plan or to push yourself too hard, but you also do not want to take the entire week off.
Perform some easy runs throughout the week and also plan a few cross training days. It is a good idea to go for a short, easy run the day before your race to loosen up your legs. If you have kept up a good training schedule, keep your same schedule, just take some mileage off of your long runs.
On race day, your adrenaline will be going crazy, so make sure to practice pacing yourself this week so you don’t use up all your energy on the first half of the race. I made this mistake on my first half marathon. My pace for the first 5 miles was 1 minute faster per mile then my normal pace, and by mile 8, I was feeling it. I had to slow down a lot which hurt my overall time. Pacing is important!
What to eat leading up to race day:
Have you heard of carb loading? Many runners swear by it before a big race. Carb loading basically means increasing the amount of carbohydrates you are eating during the last few days leading up to a race. Carb loading can increase the amount of glycogen stores in your muscles to help keep you going strong during prolonged, high intensity exercise. This can help increase your athletic performance during a race. That being said, carb loading is normally not necessary if you will be running for less than 90 minutes.
According to Runners World, carb loading does not mean you need to be increasing your calories, just have more of the calories coming from carbohydrates. The best time for your large, carb loading meal is at lunch the day before a race, then have a smaller carbohydrate based dinner. This will give your body time to digest and store the food so you are ready to use those nutrients during your race.
This is not the time to start a new diet or to cut carbs out!
Get your gear ready:
Start watching the weather so you can make sure you have the right type of clothing to wear on race day. Make sure your gear is not worn down and that it is functioning properly. Do a test run in your outfit to make sure chaffing is not going to be an issue. If you are prone to chaffing, investing in some glide will save you on race day. My dad recommends Body Glide, which goes on like deodorant and is much less messy then gels and liquids.
The day before your race, make sure all your gear is laid out and ready to go. Most races have “drop bags” where you can leave a bag of items at the start line. If it is a chilly morning, take advantage of this and bring a jacket or other warm clothes that you can wear while you wait for the race to start, then take them off just before you begin.
It is recommended that you take a full rest day (a day off of exercise) 2 days before a race. This means if your race is on Saturday, you want a planned rest day on Thursday. This may be hard to do after being so strict with your training schedule, but it is important to let your body recover to prevent injuries and allow your muscles to be ready to work at their full potential on race day.
This week it will also be important to get enough sleep. Keep your body well rested and healthy! The night before a race, try to relax, stay off your feet, and get to bed early. I know it is exciting, but save your late night celebration for after the race.
Above all, remember to have fun! You have worked so hard and come so far, enjoy the experience and take it all in. Take lots of pictures!